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Iron University

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Credit: iStock/FG Trade

Alliant Castings, based in Winona, Minnesota, is a foundry manufacturing abrasion and impact resistant castings for a variety of heavy-duty industries including mining, road construction, recycling, power generation and more. Utilizing the latest technologies, they create custom, proprietary materials to meet their clients' needs for demanding and extreme performance. In addition to providing high quality products and service, Alliant Castings is focused on giving back to and being involved in the local community, with executive participation in several nonprofit organizations, area schools and other community groups.

Alliant Castings President Tom Renk wanted to develop a roadmap for employee progression and saw an opportunity to produce not just better employees, but better people by providing educational and personal enrichment opportunities. The leadership team needed guidance on developing training materials, curriculum and how to assess employee competencies to ensure company success.

I think it’s an opportunity to help better the people that we have here with a focus on the shop floor. There’s a certain yearning, I think, with some of the guys to latch onto this. We’re in the final stages of developing our curriculum with Enterprise Minnesota’s help, and I think we’ll get some really cool results from it.

— Tom Renk, President

Like any industry, a foundry operation is comprised of employees with various duties and skillsets. Higher skilled employees command a higher hourly wage. Part of what Alliant Castings was trying to accomplish was the creation of an intentional system mapping out a plan to climb the company ladder, whether that meant cross training and learning a different skill or taking advantage of education opportunities. By demonstrating a path for progression, Alliant Castings hoped to increase employee retention and reduce turnover, especially at the lower-skill positions.

Enterprise Minnesota consultant Abbey Hellickson, part of the MEP National Network™, worked with Alliant Castings' leadership team to define employee progression in the company and the training components that accompany it. In order to be self-sufficient in keeping the program running, Alliant Castings' staff needed to be trained on how to work with other staff and conduct their own trainings.

“For the foundry industry and for the size of their organization, it’s extremely unique,” said Enterprise Minnesota consultant Abbey Hellickson. “Tom values growth, and he really values elevating his employees to be their best here and at home. So, there’s a foundation to this Iron U that’s really all about just being better people. I would say his approach and passion is something I don’t see every place. And when I look at the foundry industry especially, he is really trying to create those pathways and development opportunities for not only the employees to be successful but to also increase retention.”


  • $350,000 in new investment
  • $50,000 in cost savings
  • $35,000 in training

Could your company benefit from assistance with employee training? Connect with your local MEP Center for more information.


Enterprise Minnesota is the official representative of the MEP National Network in Minnesota. The MEP National Network is a unique public-private partnership that helps small and medium-sized manufacturers generate business results and thrive in today’s technology-driven economy. The MEP National Network comprises the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP), the 51 MEP Centers located in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

About the author

Enterprise Minnesota

Enterprise Minnesota, a MEP Center, is an ISO 9001:2008 certified consulting organization that helps manufacturing companies become operationally efficient and well positioned to grow profitably. Our team - who live and work throughout the state - provides services that help clients save time and energy, improve productivity, increase sales, improve profits, as well as create and retain jobs.

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